Archive for September, 2008

September 26th, 2008

A little follow-up on recent events

So, I announce some interesting event at a bar, like a Boston-New York bartender exchange or a tasting of Old Tom gin, tell everyone to check it out, and then just skip to the next post without recollecting the pleasant times that have given me, as Diana Ross would say, the sweetest hangover. My bad. Here’s a little follow-up on recent events.

That bartender exchange between Eastern Standard and PDT? Well done. I don’t have any intel yet on how ES’s Kevin Martin fared in New York, but it was a pleasure to be PDT bartender Daniel Eun’s patron during his guest stint in Boston. The highlight for me was Daniel’s beer cocktail. It involved a vigorously shaken mixture of Aventinus (a delicious weizenbock from the German brewery G. Schneider & Son), Sailor Jerry Rum, a whole egg and a bit of nutmeg grated over the drink’s frothy crown. As I told a friend, that drink was so good I wanted to marry it. Or at least shack up with it for the winter.

The B-Side Group Hug was a lot of fun, with a roomful of regulars, industry people and cocktailians paying their boozy respects. Would some bartender out there please keep the B-Side’s Tommy Noble cocktail alive? I love this combo of gin, Pimm’s, simple syrup and lemon juice. It’s a great drink to start the evening with, and it’s perfect for brunch, too. Oh, and FYI: B-Side barmen Al and Russ are both doing stints at the old Downtown Crossing haunt Cafe Marliave, which has recently been re-vamped.

Last night at Deep Ellum, a dozen or so people — many of them industry — gathered on the back porch to taste Hayman’s Old Tom Gin and Dolin Vermouth with Eric Seed of the Minnesota-based import company Haus Alpenz. There were people from Rialto, Dante, Eastern Standard, the Wine Bottega and Reservoir Wine & Spirits. Luckily for my lazy ass, Fred and Andrea from the Cocktail Virgin Slut blog were there taking notes, so if you want details on these spirits (and on the Trilby cocktail that bartender Max Toste mixed with them), check out this post. Max also showcased the Old Tom in a Tom Collins and a Ramos Gin Fizz, among other delights.

Thanks again to all of you who make going out to bars in Boston more interesting and fun than ever.

Posted in Beer, Boston bars, Cocktails, Events, Gin, Vermouth | 4 Comments »

September 23rd, 2008

A taste of Old Tom at Deep Ellum

Hayman’s Old Tom GinFirst: thanks to everyone who turned up for the B-Side Group Hug last night. Miraculously, I am fully conscious today despite being at the bar from doors-open to last call. It was fun.

Now for tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 24: Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz Importing introduces a spirit not seen since before Prohibition — Old Tom gin — to the Boston area at Deep Ellum from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Haus Alpenz has made several defunct or obscure spirits available again to mixologists — Pimento Dram (aka Allspice Liqueur), Creme de Violette and Batavia Arrack, to name a few. Here’s the company’s description of Old Tom:

“Old Tom Gin is a botanically-intensive and lightly sweetened style of gin popular in the 18th Century and was the Gin of Choice in the 19th Century. Relative to London Dry Gin, the Old Tom style imparts a more complex and flavourful taste experience. With its distinctive profile the Old Tom style of gin is the key ingredient in classic cocktails such as the Martinez, Tom Collins and Ramos Gin Fizz. Hayman Distillers is the longest serving family owned gin distillery in England. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is produced from an original recipe from the family archives.”

Deep Ellum bartender and co-owner Max Toste and his staff will serve some classic cocktails using Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, including the Martinez (said to be the precursor to the Martini) and the Tom Collins. In addition to the Old Tom gin, Eric will also have on hand some Peruvian bitters (Pisco Sour, anyone?) and vermouth from the small French distillery Dolin de Chambery.

FYI, BRIX stores will carry Hayman’s Old Tom Gin as early as the end of this week, and Dolin Vermouth is due to arrive in about two months.

Hope to see you there!

Posted in Events, Gin | 11 Comments »

September 21st, 2008

Five lessons from a Slow Spirits workshop

Slow Spirits 2008 workshop

By Jacqueline Church

Jacqueline Church, a freelance food writer who pens the Leather District Gourmet blog, recently attended one of Slow Food Nation‘s first Slow Spirits workshops. Jacqueline explains, “The essence of the Slow Food movement is to re-connect us with our food producers. The ‘Slowies’ want us to savor regional, sustainable food, to build fair food systems, and to talk, eat, drink and share — over food and wine. But what about cocktails?”

I attended the Slow Food Nation Come to the Table event over Labor Day weekend in San Francisco. I enjoyed some sips and learned quite a bit.

1.  You can spot a “meeting” anywhere. You know what kind of “meeting” I mean.

All the “respecting anonymity” stuff aside, I could spot these guys a mile away. Several cheery hellos! and then, finally, a guy said to me, “Are you one of Us?”

Then I knew I was right. It was an AA meeting. After successfully dodging conscription, I made it to my meeting. How ironic that the Slow Spirits workshop was scheduled in the same building, at the same time, as an AA meeting. Of all the gin joints…

2.  Spirits just graduated from the Slow Food kiddie table.

Slow Food Nation needed persuading that spirits should be allowed to Come to the Table, literally. Imagine, they had to defend their right to be there. (More about rights in a moment.) As much as wine (which Slow Food invited to the table from the beginning), spirits are a product with direct consequences for the environment, the workers that produce it, and the people that consume it.

Allen Katz, Slow Spirits 2008 workshop

Allen Katz, board chair of Slow Food USA, and Gregory Lindgren, owner of Rye Bar in San Francisco, note that leading bars began furthering the art of the cocktail by using fresh, seasonal fruit. If that doesn’t exactly make them Slow Food Royalty, it does elevate the cocktail from an Archie Bunker brew to a quality culinary experience. Our Prairie Mary, for example, was made with organic, local Early Girl tomato juice, ancho chilies, rosemary and Prairie Organic Vodka (distilled in Minnesota with local, organic grain).

3.  The Godfather of the American Cocktail was Jeremiah P. Thomas.

“The Alice Waters of his time,” according to Katz. He was, by all accounts, quite the entertaining and industrious barman. He wrote one of the first bartenders’ guides, called The Bon-Vivant’s Companion (1862), and invented cocktails (and claimed to have invented even more). He is credited with elevating the bartending occupation to where it has recently returned.

4.  There is something called a “Universal Right of Pleasure.”

Maybe that was covered in the poli-sci class I never took. A universal right? Really?

That was actually part of the workshop title: Slow Spirits — Food, Justice and the Universal Right of Pleasure. The “Food, Justice” part was more palatable for me than the so-called “Universal Right” part. It’s a nice idea, but I’d hate to look a starving child in the face and tell him about my universal right to have a cocktail. Then again, if I had to look a starving child in the face, I’d need a cocktail. Probably several. Mother Theresa, I’m not.

5.  Demonstrating the validity of slow spirits’ right to be, we learned about parallel aspects of food and spirits’ production.

Just as some farmers are farming organically without paying for the certification process to acquire the official label, so it is with liquor producers. Safe to say many workshop participants were surprised to learn that the second of our tasting samples was Maker’s Mark — not a brand that touts its green cred by selling its story with a green spin.

Maker’s Mark uses locally grown grains (corn, wheat, barley). Their distillery sits on a state-certified nature preserve, and they return water to their spring cleaner than when it was extracted. They re-use or recycle the spent grain (keeping local pigs and cows happy) and harness the energy of anaerobic digestion to power their stills. Kudos to Maker’s Mark for not bludgeoning us with how green they are. But they are!

This was a well-rounded evening. Like any good night at the watering hole, I walked away happier and with insights I didn’t have before the evening began.

Jacqueline provides more details on the spirits featured in the workshop here.

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Posted in Cocktails, San Francisco, Vodka, Whiskey | 1 Comment »

September 21st, 2008

It’s not you it’s me: beer breakups

Ms. MugDid you ever “break up” with a brand of beer or any other type of alcoholic beverage? I did. I chronicle my history of beer breakups in my latest Ms. Mug column for Ale Street News. Later, maybe I’ll recollect my past affairs with Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Or not.

Posted in Beer | 8 Comments »

September 16th, 2008

B-Side group hug

Group hug - Mary Tyler Moore finale

On Monday, September 22nd, join me, Scott Howe, and the rest of your fellow barflies in the drinkboston community in a big group hug for the B-Side Lounge.

If you haven’t heard the news yet, scroll down a few posts (The death of a lounge) and you’ll see that the B-Side, which single-handedly resurrected classic cocktails and old-school bartending in greater Boston, will soon change hands. While we’re optimistic about the incoming establishment, we have to take a moment and give props to the B-Side, its owner, Patrick Sullivan, and all the ‘tenders as they serve up their last Windsor Hi-Lo’s and Double-Wides.

This is not a wake, so no crying. And it’s not an event per se, i.e. you don’t need to buy tickets. Just show up sometime between 5:30 p.m. and closing, and order a drink or three. It’ll be like a farewell party for that beloved boss who’s retiring, with everyone from the office showing up, buying drinks, telling war stories and toasting the jolly good fellow. I’ll do my best to be there until last call, so stop by and raise a glass with me to the place that spawned some of our city’s best bars and bartenders. As Patrick himself put it, “The trade is now in better shape than ever.”

Posted in Boston bars, Events | 5 Comments »